JOHN Barclay has revealed that the “huge potential” at Edinburgh was key to his agreeing a two-year contract with the club. Edinburgh confirmed this morning (Friday) that the Scotland captain will join them next summer, moving from Wales after five years with Scarlets.
“I spoke with Richard Cockerill and he outlined his vision for the future,” Barclay said.
“Edinburgh as a club, and as a city, has a huge amount of potential and I can see what they are trying to do, so I’m looking forward to being a part of it. Scotland is home, so it’ll be great to come back and play at one of my home clubs.”
Securing the services of the 31-year-old forward is a major coup for Cockerill, who took over as Edinburgh head coach in the summer. “He’s a terrific player with a proven track record, and his leadership values will only add to the strong culture we’re building at this club,” Cockerill said. “John is committed to taking Edinburgh forward and his ambition to create a winning environment will benefit our squad immensely.”
It remains to be seen, of course, which players leave the club before Barclay arrives, and there is still a major doubt over the future of John Hardie, who is the subject of an investigation into alleged cocaine use and is still suspended. But as things stand, and presuming that the out-of-contract Hardie is the only departure Cockerill will have a wealth of back-row talent at his disposal.
If the coach opted for his most experienced trio, for example, he would be able to field Barclay at blindside flanker, Hamish Watson at openside and Cornell du Preez at No 8. If Cockerill preferred a more youthful line-up, by contrast, he could go with Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie and Jamie Ritchie.
Cockerill has certainly begun his rebuilding of the squad as early as possible. Even before the announcement that the Barclay deal had gone through, Edinburgh had already announced the signing this week of South African stand-off Jaco van der Walt, who is available for selection immediately and could make his debut in his homeland when Edinburgh resume their PRO14 campaign next Friday against the Cheetahs. Scotland hooker Stuart McInally has also agreed a two-year extension to his contract, further strengthening the impression that Cockerill is being given the backing to carry out a rebuilding project designed to get Edinburgh contending for the play-off places at last next season.
Born in Hong Kong, Barclay joined Glasgow Warriors in 2005, making his Scotland debut two years later against the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup pool game. His appearance tomorrow against the same opponents will be his 65th for his country.